“The Best American Non-required Reading” is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels that is selected by a committee of high school students. As a high school teacher, I was curious to see what high schoolers would select as the best literature. I found their picks interesting and surprising.
Wells Tower’s “Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?” was eye-opening as it was shocking to read about the account of big-game hunting. Tower is open about his bias (anti-elephant hunting) but is objective in his portrayal of the wealthy Americans who do participate in the hunt. He doesn’t villanize them, but he does ask important questions.
Victor Lodato’s “Jack, July” takes us into the mind of an addict much like “Requiem for a Dream.”
“780 Days of Solitude” is the account of the three Americans who were held in Iran on charges of espionage. It’s written by the three young people and was a take on the story I hadn’t read before. I’m interested to read their entire book this was excerpted from.
Paul Salopek’s “Out of Eden Walk” shares his journey walking from Ethiopia through Russia tracing the route of human migration. The selection in the anthology covers his time in Palestine, Jordan, and Turkey.
There’s so many more I want to highlight, but I’d basically be recommending 80% of the book. While many of the pieces were well written, I had trouble appreciating the collection as a whole. Having so many different genres mashed into one collection, I felt that I wasn’t able to settle in a enjoy reading the book cover to cover. I found that I had to keep shifting my thinking switching from fiction to non-fiction to poetry and it gave me a bit of a headache. Reader beware.